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The Transfiguration of the Commonplace

The Transfiguration of the Commonplace

Oil on canvas
24 x 20”

Jesus and three apostles ascend a mountain
to pray. On the mountaintop, Jesus begins to
shine with bright rays of light and his clothes
become dazzling white. The First Testament
figures Moses and Elijah appear and converse
with Christ. The disciples are in awe yet terrified
at the sight and fall prostrate on the ground.
A cloud then envelops them and God tells the
disciples that Jesus is His Son and that they
should listen to Him. Afterward, they descend
the mountain and Jesus heals a boy possessed
by a demon whom His disciples could not help.

Arthur Danto wrote The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, arguing that art, as we know it in art history courses, is over. The good news is that everything can be art. The ordinary object is transfigured and becomes art, something exalted. His title alludes to the biblical story of the Transfiguration, where Jesus transfigures before his three closest Apostles, and his divine nature is revealed. Christ reveals his purpose to the disciples at this point. In a sense, this painting attempts to answer (at least) two questions: 1) What is an object worthy of art status? 2) Who is Christ? For both, a possible answer is the roll of toilet paper. If we take the adage to “find God in all things” seriously, can we even find God in something so banal as a roll of toilet paper? Isn’t that sacrilegious? Wasn’t God becoming human equally so? As Paul says of Christ’s – God’s – crucifixion, it is a “stumbling block” and “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Can we see “the power of God and the wisdom God” (1 Corinthians 1:24) in bath tissue?

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